Planning my teaching (and business) – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of my mini-series! Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2, about my teaching/administration Filofax and my Plum Paper Planner teacher’s planner, respectively. In this post, I’d like to go over my system for dealing with photocopies and other handouts.

As a teacher, prepping photocopies and handouts is a big part of my job! I try to use my tablet and project readings and exercises on my class TV (via Apple TV – a wonderful invention!) when I can, but there are times when it’s just not practical. I realized this past summer that I needed to overhaul my system because I was becoming inundated with incoming papers to correct, handouts with general information, bills to give out, worksheets and such.

My first step was to create a simple and quick filing system. I bought three filing trays and stacked them.

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The bottom is incoming – this is primarily written work that I need to correct, although occasionally I stick something else in there that I need to review quickly. Next is my outgoing tray – only for already corrected written work ready to be handed back to the students. And the top tray is my catch-all – the place where I keep worksheets to hand out, as well as any other loose papers or quick guides that I might need to reference in class. My goal is to keep the bottom tray clear so that I stay on top of my corrections, and I check the middle tray at the beginning of every class so I don’t forget to turn things back to my students. I also organize the papers by day and hour of class, so the ones on top are theoretically the ones I will need to give back in any given class.

This filing system is great for handling the corrections work, but I still needed a way to categorize the outgoing papers that were not corrections. For this, I bought a small binder and filled it with six plastic page protectors.

With a bit of washi, I labeled each page protector with the days of the week (and one extra, for “other”). If I have a class on Monday that is going to be doing a worksheet, I print the necessary worksheets and file them away in the Monday file. This serves two purposes – easy and quick access in class, and easy reference as to whether I’ve printed the necessary documents for each particular class (as I tend to print in batches, only once a week if I can manage it). Except for written corrections, anything that needs to be handed out in class gets stored here.

This system started off great, but I soon realized I had a secondary “problem”. It’s not uncommon for students to miss class, and I was ending up with many extra copies, with which I didn’t know what to do. In the past, I had filed these extra copies away in a collapsible file folder, but this had the frustrating effect that many times I would either a) have no idea where to put a certain paper or b) successfully locate the section with similar papers only to realize that I had previously printed several copies of that particular document and that there had been no need for me to make more. Since the small binder was working so well, I decided to graduate up to a bigger binder for extra copies.

This binder is too big to be constantly pulling off the shelf, opening, and closing, but at the end of every week I go through the small binder and remove any extra papers, and file them away in the big binder. Before printing, I also check the big binder to make sure that I don’t already have copies of that particular document. I’ve divided this binder up into categories to help me find things quickly and easily (I’m listing them here in case this is helpful for any other English teachers out there!): A2, B1, B2, C1, book copies, reading, lyrics/listening, exercises, holidays, speaking. I’ve labeled each category with a small washi tape tab and written the name on the tab in Sharpie. In each category, I have several page protectors. Any document of which I have more than one copy gets its own page protector for all the copies – it makes for a lot of plastic, but a lot less headache when trying to quickly see what’s available and what’s not! In each section I also have one page protector labeled “single copies” for, you guessed it, single copies.

I’ve been building this system up since last summer, and so far, so good. It’s really helping me get at least one part of my paper clutter under control!

Do you have any interesting ways to manage your papers?

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